UN Extends Observer Force in Syria for 30 Days
July 20, 2012 - 2:05 pm
Thirty days or 300, what’s the difference? The UN Observer Mission in Syria has been extended 30 days but it could stay 30 years and not accomplish anything. And to expect anything to change in 30 days is delusional.
That’s probably why the mission will not be extended again unless President Assad complies with some of the peace plan he agreed to 3 months ago.
The U.N. Security Council unanimously approved a resolution Friday renewing the 300-strong U.N. observer force in Syria for 30 days, and allowed for a possible extension if the government stops using heavy weapons and the escalating violence is reduced significantly.
The resolution is a lifeline for the unarmed observers who were sent to Syria three months ago to monitor a cease-fire that never happened, and to watch over the implementation of international envoy Kofi Annan’s six-point peace plan, flouted by President Bashar Assad’s government.
The council voted shortly after Russia’s ambassador to France, Alexander Orlov, said he believed Assad was ready to step down “in a civilized way.” The Syrian government immediately denied it, and the Russian Foreign Ministry said the ambassador’s statements were “wrongly interpreted.”
The U.N. suspended the observers’ patrols and most of their other activities on June 16 because of increased violence, and its mandate had been set to expire Friday.
The force’s future had been in doubt following Russian and Chinese vetoes of a Western-backed U.N. resolution Thursday pressuring Assad’s government to end the civil war by threatening sanctions. Russia had opposed the resolution on grounds that it opened the door to military action, which it adamantly opposes.
In Moscow, spokesman Dmitry Peskov alluded to any future actions not sanctioned by the U.N. saying Friday that Russian President Vladimir Putin believes that “any attempts to act bypassing the U.N. Security Council will not be effective and only undermine the authority of this international organization.”
He made the comments following a closed meeting with Putin and Russia’s top military and intelligence officials.
The Syrian military has gained back a lot of the ground they lost yesterday to the rebels, but for the first time, they are being tested by opposition forces. Assad has presumably left the capital and may be in his tribal stronghold of Latakia directing the war effort from there. One ominous scenario posited in this Financial Times article might actually come to pass:
Indeed, among the scenarios envisioned by diplomats and analysts is a disintegration of the state into an even bloodier civil war in which the Alawites, for whom this is now a struggle for existence, regroup in their strongholds on the coast and continue their war.
“The regime is shedding layer after layer of what made it a state. The risk now is that it will just shed that last layer that still makes it different from a large militia,” says Peter Harling, Syria analyst at the International Crisis Group.
We’re still a long way from that kind of an endgame. And unless the rebels prove they can take and hold territory — Damascus, for instance — Assad, comparatively speaking, will be safe.